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Gingivitis: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

August 5, 2022

Overview

The part of the gum around the base of the teeth is called gingiva. A common and mild form of gum disease that can cause irritation, redness and swelling of the gingiva is called Gingivitis. 

Caused by bacteria that builds up around the gum line and turns into plaque which is a soft, sticky and colourless layer, gingivitis can cause inflammation, swelling, tenderness and bleeding in gums.

When not taken seriously and left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a much more severe gum disease called periodontitis, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.

Gingivitis is most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene and can be prevented and reversed by following good oral hygiene, brushing and flossing daily and regular dental checkups.

What are the Sign & Symptoms of Gingivitis?

Gingivitis usually does not cause any signs or symptoms till the condition is mild, therefore making an early diagnosis difficult. On worsening of the disease, the signs and symptoms of gingivitis may include:

  • Swollen and puffy gums
  • Discoloured Gums
  • Gums that bleed easily on brushing or flossing
  • Halitosis or foul breath that doesn’t subside on brushing
  • Receding gums.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods.
  • Tenderness and Pain in gums on chewing food.

What are the Causes of Gingivitis?

Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of gingivitis that encourages plaque formation on teeth. The accumulation of bacterial plaque between and around the teeth is the most common cause of gingivitis.

An invisible, sticky biofilm which is mainly composed of bacteria, occurs when bacteria generally found in the mouth interact with starches and sugar in food and attach to the smooth surface of a tooth.

The daily removal of plaque is important as it has the tendency to re-form quickly. The plaque that is not cleaned regularly and thoroughly, turns into tartar, which is full of bacteria and causes an infection where the teeth meet the gums. This infection is called gingivitis. 

The longer the plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, the more gingiva (the part of the gum around the base of the teeth) is irritated, causing inflammation and bleeding in the gums.

It can eventually lead to tooth decay and if left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis and even tooth loss.

Are there any Risk Factors for Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is fairly common, and anyone can develop it. However, the following factors may increase the risk of gingivitis:

  • Not taking adequate care of teeth or having crooked, hard-to-clean teeth.
  • Diabetes, especially when uncontrolled
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Old age
  • Vitamin C Deficiency

Besides the above conditions, some prescription and over-the-counter medications which can cause a reduction in the flow of saliva that helps to keep the mouth clean may also contribute to gingivitis. These include:

  • Drugs to treat epilepsy.
  • A few cancer therapies.
  • Calcium channel blockers are prescribed for blood pressure.
  • Oral contraceptives.

When Should One Consult a Dentist?

The development of even one or two symptoms of gingivitis is a reason to call a dentist like Dr. Sheena Gaur at Kirkland Premier Dentistry, who has substantial experience treating gum diseases. Remember, a timely diagnosis and treatment can save you from further complications.

Diagnosis And Tests

The dentists base their diagnosis of the gum disease on the following steps

  • Review the dental and medical history of the patient and ailments, if any, that may contribute to the symptoms.
  • The dentist examines the teeth, gums, mouth and tongue for any signs of plaque formation, bleeding and inflammation.
  • The pocket depth of the groove between the gums and the teeth is measured by the dentist by inserting a dental probe beside the tooth beneath the gum line, at several sites throughout the mouth. The pocket depth in a healthy person is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm) and Pockets deeper than 4 mm may be an indication of gum disease.
  • The dentist then takes some X-rays to check for bone loss in areas with deeper pockets.
  • Sometimes the dentist may recommend a medical examination to check for underlying health conditions in case the cause of gingivitis is not clear. 

Also Read: Bleeding Gums During Pregnancy- Should You Worry?

How is Gingivitis Treated?

The symptoms of gingivitis can be usually reversed and its progression is prevented to more serious gum disease and tooth loss through treatment.

The main motive of the treatment for gingivitis is to control the infection and restore healthy teeth and gums. The teeth are thoroughly cleaned by the dentist or periodontist, to remove harmful bacteria, plaque and tartar. 

The additional treatments may include: 

  • Scaling and root planing: Scaling can help to effectively remove tartar and bacteria from teeth and from underneath the gums and Planing can smoothen the surfaces of the roots of the teeth, preventing the bacteria from sticking to them.
  • Dental restoration: The crowns, fillings, crowns or bridges that stick out or don’t fit right may be fixed or removed keeping in view that smoother surfaces are easier to keep clean.
  • A robust oral hygiene routine: Whereas dental cleaning normally clears up gingivitis, one needs to maintain the level of cleanliness. The dentist can guide you about the proper oral hygiene, method of cleaning the teeth and the relevance of scheduling regular checkups.
  • Prescription: An antimicrobial mouth rinse may be prescribed to help destroy bad bacteria.

Dr. Sheena Gaur explains that the treatment can be especially successful when the patient also adopts a regular good oral care routine and stops tobacco use. A consistent home oral hygiene can go a long way in restoring pink, healthy gum tissue within a few weeks.

What can be the Possible Complications of Gingivitis? 

Gingivitis, if not treated in time, can progress to gum disease called periodontitis, which affects the underlying tissue and bone, and can lead to tooth loss.

Moreover, Chronic gingival inflammation is believed to be related to some systemic diseases like respiratory issues, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Some studies also suggest that the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter the bloodstream through the gum tissue, and affect the heart, lungs and other parts of the patient’s body. 

How can Gingivitis be Prevented?

Gingivitis can be easily prevented with:

  • Good Oral hygiene:  Brush your teeth twice daily for at least two minutes and floss at least once a day. Brushing after every meal or snack or as per the dentist’s recommendation can be even better. The loosened food particles and bacteria can be cleared away if one uses floss before brushing.
  • Regular dental visits: Seeing the dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings can protect one against gum disease. Patients who have risk factors for periodontitis may need professional cleaning more often. Annual dental X-rays can help identify diseases that are not seen by a visual dental examination and monitor changes if any in your dental health.
  • Managing health conditions like diabetes and avoiding smoke or the use of other tobacco products can help prevent gingivitis to a great extent.
  • One must limit food and drinks with lots of starch and sugar

Outlook

Gingivitis, common gum disease is usually the result of bacterial buildup on the teeth, which can cause inflammation, discoloration and pain in the gums.

However, gingivitis can be easily reversed with regular good oral hygiene practices and dental checkups to identify and treat the signs of gum disease as soon as possible.

Good oral health not only reduces the chances of gum disease but also makes one feel great. 

If you feel you have any signs of gum disease, Contact Kirkland Premier Dentistry for a detailed dental checkup and to discuss the treatment and prevention of gingivitis and other dental problems.

Our team has been working diligently to put that dazzling smile right where it belongs- on your face!

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